Earlier this year, we paid a visit to GB Taekwondo with the intention of finding out how they were using the Wattbike on their road to Tokyo. Fast forward a few months and things were looking a little different, to say the least. We caught up with GB Taekwondo coach, Rhys Ingram, to find out how using the Wattbike helped them redefine remote training throughout the pandemic and how it’s powering the preparation for next year’s games.
I’m the Lead Strength & Conditioning Coach for GB Taekwondo and a Senior S&C Coach for the English Institute of Sport. I have been fortunate to work with GB Taekwondo since 2013, in that time supporting athletes across an Olympic Games, four World Championships, and countless other major international tournaments. Prior to this, I worked with various sports in preparation for the London Olympic Games (British Fencing, Wheelchair Rugby & Basketball, Para-Swimming, Athletics) as well as, non-Olympic athletes (England Squash, Women’s Rugby & Football). I earned my MSc in Strength & Conditioning from Middlesex University and have a Bachelors in Sport & Exercise Science from UWIC.
Prior to the pandemic, I would work face to face with our athletes at our centralised base, the National Taekwondo Centre in Manchester. Each week we would run a series of strength and power sessions, conditioning sessions and support injury rehabilitation. We would also observe and support technical Taekwondo sessions wherever needed. Beyond this, we would spend time updating programmes, working with other members of the coaching/support team and reviewing data collected, in order to best support the athlete in their training towards all competitions.
Since the pandemic hit, our routine has changed but the objective has remained the same. We were able to provide our athletes with a mix of equipment from our gym to take home, enabling them to keep progressing in their training. This included weights, plyometric equipment, heart rate monitors and even Wattbike smart bikes.
From there we were able to programme remotely for the athletes to maintain their physical and mental readiness throughout their lockdown. Face to face contact was temporarily replaced by WhatsApp, Facetime and video conference calls, with programmes being regularly updated based on feedback from the athletes and based on the constantly changing circumstances of the lockdown in the UK.
Now we’re back to training at the National Centre things feel more normal. We’re working with athletes in person once again which is great, just with extra precautions taken to ensure everyone’s ability to train safely, such as providing PPE, extra cleaning of equipment, smaller groups and health checks taking place.
The key things that have helped us adapt and keep pushing through this changing time has been having a clarity to our training goals. This enables us to be flexible in our approach, even when some very unexpected circumstances present themselves.
As a coaching team we have been able to identify our key performance indicators with Taekwondo players so that despite the pandemic we could still pick up on different ways to keep our athletes moving towards their goals.
We are fortunate to have an extremely motivated and committed group of athletes who understand the importance of maintaining their physical readiness. This has meant that together as athletes and coaches I think we’ve been able to adapt well and this will pay dividends when we are able to return to full international competition.
We aim to have the fittest Taekwondo athletes in the world, who have the ability to push any fight to a pace that the opposition won’t be able to handle. In order to do that we need to ensure that our athletes’ metabolic conditioning is world-leading.
When developing the plan to achieve this goal, we need to consider many factors, especially how we are able to get the most out of our athletes without negatively impacting their ability to train on the mats with their Taekwondo coaches.
The Wattbikes have been key for us in being able to provide our athletes with data-driven conditioning sessions that minimise impact and wear and tear on their bodies when attempting to train two to three times per day. Whether it be longer aerobic sessions or short, sharp, high-intensity sessions, the Wattbike provides a solution to many of the things we want to achieve. It enables us to keep things fresh and interesting for the athletes as we can prescribe and review sessions based on different measures such as time, distance travelled, wattage and more. Our athletes can then focus on different things and see the progression in different aspects of the training year-round.
We use the Wattbike Hub to help track athletes progress, and to prescribe sessions to athletes when we are not there. It means we can remotely support the athletes and evaluate their performance to ensure that even when we’re apart, as we have been during the pandemic, our athletes are able to keep pushing and progressing towards their goals.
Alongside the Wattbike Hub we use our Polar heart rate systems to track the athlete’s training zones and how this relates to their wattage during different sessions. We also have an in-house Taekwondo app that we use for monitoring an athlete’s wellness measures, such as sleep, energy and other factors that impact on their performance.
These apps are our main electronic support during training weeks, however, as we usually see our athletes each day, we have found that nothing replaces the face to face conversations we can have to check in on how athletes feel, how they might train that day and how we might best support them in other ways such as recovery.
As previously mentioned, we are now back in the centre with our athletes, training under strict conditions. As a result, the need for electronic communication has reduced, however, when wider messages need to be communicated across the whole coaching or support team we’re still using things like Microsoft Teams to have those meetings.
When working with the athletes we’re trying to keep things relaxed and fun wherever possible. Whilst this is an important time for us to make improvements ready for the Olympic Games, we also appreciate that stress levels are higher than normal and that competitions might be a long way off. So to keep everyone motivated and happy I think it’s important to coach in a way that strikes the right balance between performance and fun!